Katanagatari and the Brilliance of Simplicity

I love when shows have a lot of artistic detail. It’s like there’s tons of little treasures hidden in every single frame. However, there are times when too much of a good thing can ruin the potential greatness. Gankutsuou, a show that has just as much style as it does plot, is one example that teeters on the edge between a work of art and a fabulous mess. Watching more than a few episodes could quite possibly leave you with a minor headache. However, that style is a part of its charm and it just wouldn’t be the same without it. So, how does something like Katanagatari, a show somewhere on cusp between gorgeous detailed craft and refined simplicity, fair?

Katanagatari can be divided into two parts: the background and the characters. At first glance the difference between the two seem rather jarring. On one side you have a lush and detailed background and layered on top is this bare and stripped down character designs. Take a look at the epic staring contest above. What immediately strikes your eyes is the vibrancy of the characters. They may be simple but what they lack in detail they make up for in color vibrancy. It’s only after you take in the characters that you notice the absolute awesome shoji screen printing in the background.

And this is how Katanagatari is able to perfectly balance its two rather odd style choices. The vibrancy of the characters pulls them out from the background but at the same time the simplicity of the characters highlights the details of the background. In a way it is very reminiscent of old style Japanese ink painting. In traditional Japanese art the human form itself is stylized but incredibly simplistic just like Katanagatari and while the human figure in traditional paintings are usually solitary in the work of art (simple or no background) what takes the art to a new level is the amount of detail in the clothing.

What I also find amazing is how well close ups work in Katanagatari. In some ways it’s like zeroing in on the most least developed part of a picture but I feel it’s able to pull that off because of it’s simplicity. The few lines it takes to create the shape of our character here completely contrasts with the writing in the background. In some sense, despite that contrast and the apparent differences in the styles, they are still very much alike. The brush strokes that make up the writing and the background feel just like the lines that make up our main character.

(A game called Okami also chose to do this with its art direction, using very simplistic character designs with lush and detailed backgrounds. It was all done in an Ink Wash Painting style that was absolutely beautiful to behold and to an extent Katanagatari does the same thing. It’s just the link between the two different styles may not be all that apparent at first.)

There are times when I feel like an art style doesn’t particularly fit a show and there are times when the designers hit the nail right on the head and this is one of those shows. Katanagatari is so simplistically beautiful that I could stare at it all day. And that’s most certainly a good thing, since, even though it does have its moments, Katanagatari really isn’t all about the action. Still, if your looking for a bizarre treat for the eyes there’s no reason you shouldn’t give this a shot.

About Nishimura

An anime enthusiast who finds time to blog when she has no time to spare.
This entry was posted in Anime, Art, editorials and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Katanagatari and the Brilliance of Simplicity

  1. Sabine says:

    Just came across your post. This anime truly looks wonderful. I completely agree with you on the simplicity of the characters and detail of backgrounds. Both complement well with each other which you wouldn’t really expect. I’m a fan of Okami/Okamiden and their style of work also, and I just watched the opening to Katanagatari on youtube, definitely want to try and see the whole thing : )

    • Nishimura says:

      Katanagatari is truly a feast for the eyes, however, there is quite a bit of talking. Some of it is really interesting while some of it is not but as a whole the story is something that is worth watching. Anyway, give it a shot and I highly suggest if you have the option, watching it in HD is breathtaking. Hope you enjoy it and avoid spoilers at all cost!

      Okami is the best game ever and I wish there were more like it. If you have a PS3, I highly recommend Journey. It also has a similar style to both Katanagatari and Okami (simple characters, absolutely gorgeous backgrounds). The story is simple but it pushes all the right buttons. It is one beautiful experience.

  2. Marow says:

    I’m afraid I haven’t watched Katanagatari, but it’s a show I want to watch.

    Sorry for not having commented in a long while, I’ve rarely been commenting on others blog lately. Are you still updating?

    • Nishimura says:

      If your interested in Katanagatari. give it a shot. It’s not perfect but it’s wholly entertaining and gorgeous.

      As for my current activity on this blog, well, I’ve been in quite the rut lately – idea wise anyway. I was thinking of doing some more first impressions but there are a ton of those out right now already so it feels like that’s already been covered, you know what I mean? I also landed my first job working in a bakery (not as romantic as it sounds unfortunately) and it’s more stressful than I imagined. Plus I decided to get myself a Playstation Vita with the money i saved up so anime isn’t the the first thing on my mind at the moment. Though I’m really smitten with Natsuyuki Rendezvous and Humanity has Declined. I’m hoping to have another post up in the near future, if all goes well.

      • Marow says:

        I’m in it for the visuals! One of the shows I would love to adore in Bluray.

        I understand what you mean 🙂
        If you’re stressed, just relax and take it easy. I can relate to it very well. Also, I hope the job in the bakery goes well!

      • Nishimura says:

        Bluray is a must with something like Katanagatari.

        And thanks 🙂 I have a feeling the stress will go away the more I get accustomed to it. It’s just I can already tell the monotony of it all will eventually drive me insane.

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